My Mad Men recap: Don and Megan ask, are we mostly the product of our parents' bad choices?
I fear the ultimate message of this year's Mad Men season will be that we all are the product of our parents' crappy choices.
That's the unmistakable not-so-subtext unveiled in Sunday's episode, "At the Codfish Ball," which introduced us to the miserable, French-Canadian parents of hero Don Draper's new wife Megan.
They have the discomfiting habit of speaking insults in French and arguing bitterly in public, as her father Emile Calvet struggles with the reality that his career is fading while his daughter has married in embodiment of everything he opposes as an intellectual.
Julia Ormond, just 47 in real life, shines as Megan's fading mother Marie, a woman so lonely in her bitter union she seems to wish she could marry Don herself (not surprising since, if the character is old as the actress, Marie is closer to Don's age than Megan is).
Given Emile's strict values, Communist politics, life of professordom and professional compromises -- he is, after all, a Marxist who had a Capitalist book deal -- it seems Megan's attraction to Don makes a bit more sense.
Drawn to Draper's success and power -- which dad likely never had -- but not put off by his strictness and emotional unavailability, Megan is, like so many children, a better version of the parents who produced her.
The showcase moment plot-wise is, of course, the business dinner where Megan and Don team up to deliver a new pitch to Heinz which saves their account. Megan divines the firm is about to get fired in a powder-room moment with a Heinz executive's wife, then dazzles them both by prodding her husband to pitch them her idea for beans served through the ages.
To these ears, the pitch sounded worse than their previous ideas. But the moment served its purpose -- demonstrating how formidable Mr. and Mrs. Draper can be when they work together; Don's authority and reputation burnishing her creativity and spot-on instincts.
The real question, as always, is how this affects the office. Peggy Olson congratulates Megan for sealing the deal, clueless to how Megan's ascension as Don's right hand will affect her own future. Already feeling overlooked and overworked, how will she react when Don turns to his wife for the kind of creative input she once provided?
Will the real irony here be that the woman who gets to become the female Don Draper turns out to be his wife?
The moment everyone will discuss today is, of course, when Marie meets Roger Sterling at an American Cancer Society dinner for Don and winds up, um, pleasuring him in the women's bathroom lounge -- a moment Don's daughter Sally witnesses in one of those transformative accidents we often have as kids.
It's the instant when you recognize that adults you know and trust are capable of acting as awful as anyone you might meet on the street -- and its often the difference between seeing the world as a child and knowing it as someone more mature. Sally already has more than a touch of her father's merciless habit for self-preservation -- blaming her brother for an accident she caused which led her stepfather's mother to break her ankle. Lord knows what seeing her grandmother-in-law servicing Uncle Roger will do to her.
For Marie, it seems, a tryst with Roger is the next best thing to bedding Don. It is his fate, it seems, to be surrounded by maternal, sexually promiscuous women.
In subplot-land, I wonder if Peggy's decision to move in with her boyfriend is a example of the two living a more modern life, or Peggy letting another needy man take advantage of her. Old fashioned as her mother may be, it's worth remembering this mom has seen her daughter have a child out of wedlock and shrug off traditional family-building for the world of work.
When Peggy's mom refuses to accept their arrangement, you're left wondering if she's giving the right advice for the wrong reasons.
In the end, Weiner manages to pull all the joy out of what should be a triumphant award for Don from the American Cancer Society. Draper learns no one in Manhattan's high-power business/advertising complex trusts him; Emile learns his daughter will never live the dreams he had for her and Sally learns the adults in her life are more screwed up than she ever could have imagined.
Somewhere, somehow, Sigmund Freud is laughing.